Category Archives: Me

Around the world with 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers…

So I have an econometrics test in a couple hours, but couldn’t help quickly scrolling through this 88-page photo journal capturing the adventures of 40 travel bloggers. Loads of photos that just make you want to book a plane ticket to somewhere, anywhere!

The world’s a big place, how much of it have you seen?

The Great Courses – ongoing education!


So I’ve just started to read The Bourgeois Virtues by Deidre McCloskey and in her acknowledgements at the beginning of the book she mentions ‘The Great Courses‘ and something about her listening to it while walking on a treadmill or some nonsense. So I thought to myself ‘I’ve never heard of this thing before?!’ So I quickly moved from bed to desk and in five seconds Google was telling me that there was a massive learning resource of which I was completely oblivious. Basically, it’s a for-profit site that sells different courses (i.e. a series of lectures) that are presented by exceptional (think ivy-league) lecturers. There’s a massive variety of topics and lecturers. They seem brilliant. Importantly (and unfortunately) they aren’t cheap. Depending on the course they range from $100 to $1000+  which is pretty damn expensive if you’re paying in Rands! No 3rd-world-country, boo-hoo, give-me-discount here! BUT, they are currently having a sale and it’s 70% off!!! Which is fantastic news. According to the website, the sale is ending ‘soon‘, but the term ‘soon‘ coming from a money-hungry, morally-starved organisation is a rather loose concept I’m guessing. Nevertheless, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity (exactly what they want me to think- good little consumer-drone that I am). So I bought the course The Story of the Bible which had rave reviews and looked really interesting (and was only $30 due to the sale! Usually $130!). So I downloaded the first 5 episodes (there are 24 30min lectures in this series) and started listening to them, and they are great. Wunderbar! The professor is interesting, impartial, well-read and enthusiastic. But the story doesn’t end there…unfortunately for my credit card.

So I thought to myself I should really take advantage of this 70% off thing because paying full price will be so irritating when there was just a sale with such a large percentage off (the hook had sunk deep into my consumer-drone consciousness). I was mainly thinking about another course that Prof Johnson lectures called Jesus and the Gospels which is a 36 lectures series (30min each) and only $49.95 (originally $200!). So I bought that one…but then I also saw RAVE reviews for Classical Mythology (24 lectures $35) and History of Ancient Egypt (48 lectures $65) so I got those too 🙂 great stuff!!

I definitely think it was money well spent and I most definitely intend to listen to them at some stage this year. In my budgeting spreadsheet  I will record this under ‘Educational expenditures’ which is an investment (not a consumption) good. I also chalk up my UCT metrics course fees in that category. Too often we think that buying educational books (read: ‘all books that aren’t Mills & Boon’) is a luxury or we are spoiling ourselves. What CRAP! Utter nonsense. How is it that spending R40 000+ on your formal higher education is classified as a legitimate investment in your future, but buying things like downloadable lectures isn’t? For those familiar with the economics of education literature, I am aware that one can use the Signal-theory argument here to shoot me down (with downloadable lectures sending no credible signal), but for me personally I don’t give two hoots about signals – I’m not planning on going into the real world anytime soon (I’m still thinking of a better, more derogatory word for the ‘real’ world). I intend to inhabit academia as long as she will have me.

So I implore you (whoever you are) to do something about your ongoing education. It doesn’t have to be buying a course online (although that really would be a great start – just be sure to read the reviews first), it could be buying and reading a book about history or linguistics or cooking or whatever –  it doesn’t matter…just learn. When we stop actively learning, we start actively dying. Sad, but true.

Onward and upward…

Spiritual Audit

During a recent preach my mind started to wander onto a different wavelength. Usually I force myself to stay focussed or (if it’s really bad) start some Scripture reading, but this time I let my thoughts get some speed. I did this because it felt right, it felt important, and the questions which I wrote down (see below) seemed penetrating and revealing – things I try not to brush off easily.

Basically, it occurred to me  that companies have their books audited once a year, but we Christians hardly ever audit our spiritual lives with the same rigor, and that is if we audit them at all! A financial audit is defined as ‘An unbiased examination and evaluation of the financial statements of an organization’. Similarly, I would define a spiritual audit as ‘An unbiased examination and evaluation of your spiritual life’. I hate airy-fairy terms, which invite confusion and speculation, so let me define what I mean by the terms ‘spiritual life’. My spiritual life consists of all those factors that affect me spiritually. When I ask how my spiritual life is doing I’m asking if I am spiritually healthy now (the present), and if the way that I am living my life now is setting me up for future success (the future). Because the physical and the spiritual cannot be separated (for example it would be impossible to split my spirit from my body) – we must necessarily include physical things in the spiritual audit. How I use and manage my time and money have direct implications on my spiritual health. It’s debatable whether that link is causal or if, instead, the way that I use my time and money is simply symptomatic of my existing state of spiritual health. Something to think about but I won’t elaborate on it here.

So I thought of a bunch of questions. The answers to these questions, and the way we answer them (how long it takes, if we get defensive, if we think of excuses etc.) is an indication of the state of our spiritual lives. I wrote this list for myself first and foremost (although I’ve included some questions that obviously don’t apply to me (like for husbands and wives). This is for now, but also for the future. The questions (and the realities they reveal) do not have an expiry date – the factors that affect our spiritual lives may change slightly in shape or form, but their broad outline remains unchanged. So here is my list…if you also want to answer them, take a minute and commit yourself to answering in total truth. I solemnly swear to tell myself the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! {and on that note, please do help me God!}

Spiritual Audit

GENERAL

  •  Are there any serious disappointments (personal, professional, and spiritual/church) in your life that you have not dealt with?
    • What are they?
    • Why haven’t you dealt with them?
  • Do you prioritise your health? Especially in terms of exercise and diet?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I am where I thought I would be at ___ (insert current age)
  • If all areas of my life (especially private) where made public I would not feel ashamed.
  • I am quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1).
  • I willingly submit to my church leaders with joy.
  • I regularly take time out to see the bigger picture.
  • Unbelievers have a big influence on me
  • I have a big influence on unbelievers
  • (for wives) I willingly submit to my husband with joy
    • I understand and support my husband in ways that show my support for Christ (Msg)
  • (for husbands) I willingly lay down my life for my wife, and do it with joy
    • I go all out in my love for my wife (Msg)
  • (If married) I regularly affirm my spouse verbally (in private and in public)
  • (If married) I regularly take time out to spend with my spouse and see the bigger picture
  • (If married) I encourage, uplift and invest in my spouse
  • (If married) I am sometimes harsh with my spouse
  • (If married) I often pray with my spouse

 RELATIONSHIPS/PEOPLE

  •  Are there any unresolved relationship issues that you have with anyone? (believers or unbelievers)
    • If so, have you done everything in your power to rectify that relationship?
    • If you haven’t, why not?
  • How many meaningful and deep relationships do you have with people in your church?
    • Are you making new meaningful and deep relationships?
  • How many meaningful and deep relationships do you have with people outside your church? (especially unsaved).
    • Are you making new meaningful and deep relationships?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I often tell my friends how much I appreciate them, and what I appreciate about them.
  • I often tell my family how much I appreciate them, and what I appreciate about them.
  • I make an effort to be friends with people even if I don’t naturally ‘click’ with them.
  • I really care that unbelievers become saved.
  • I prioritize people above everything else in my life (except God)

 TIME

  • What are the three most time-consuming activities in your week?
    • Are they legitimate uses of your time?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  •  I am very disciplined with the way I spend my time.
  • I sleep too much.
  • I am happy with how much dedicated time I spend with God each day.
  • I have a routine that I stick to each week/day.
  • I often make time to spend with people.
  • If someone judged my priorities based on how I spend my time, I think that would be an accurate reflection.

FINANCIAL

  • CS Lewis said ‘If we live at the same level of affluence as others who have our level of income, we are probably giving away too little’. Am I living at the same level of affluence as others (unbelievers) who have my level of income? Am I giving away enough? (what is enough??)
  • Are you currently in debt (other than for a car or house)?
  • Do you spend money before you earn it?
  • Would you say that you are financially responsible?
  • Have all your financial dealings in the past year been entirely above reproach?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I believe God would approve of the way I spend my money.
  • I never envy rich people.
  • I feel less attached to money than I did a year ago.
  • I often give more respect to rich people than poor people.
  • Sometimes I think that my problems would go away if I had more money.
  • I think God will bless me financially if I sin less.
  • I often give money to the poor.
  • I am disciplined with my money.
  • I think the poor are poor because they are lazy or don’t have a good work ethic.
  • I think the poor is more the church’s responsibility rather than my responsibility.
  • I am very generous.
  • If someone judged my priorities based on how I spend my money, I think that would be an accurate reflection.

SPIRITUAL STUFF

  • What are your spiritual gifts? (1 Cor 12:1 & Rom 12:6-8)
  • Do you exercise your spiritual gifts? Are you blessing the Church by exercising your gifts?
  • Do you serve in some way in your local church?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I think my dreams are important because God can speak to me through dreams.
  •  I can feel (in my spirit) the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • I frequently doubt my spiritual giftings.
  •  I am completely satisfied with my spiritual progress in the last year
  •  I am definitely less proud / arrogant / greedy / selfish / lustful / insecure / angry / depressed  than I was last year. (go through each one)
  •  I am definitely more patient / generous / loving / joyful / kind / gentle / self-controlled / humble / grateful / than I was last year. (go through each one)
  • I have a healthy prayer life.
On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is excellent and 1 is dismal) how would you rate your spiritual life on the whole?
***THE END***
I think I might ask Oli if we can do this at Lifegroup sometime so any suggestions about questions to add or delete are welcome!

Lovely-jubbly. Tally-ho! **

Hello to all my blog-readers. I think I could count all of you on my fingers, and better still, I could name you 🙂 Nevertheless, I don’t care. I told a friend who was starting a blog, let’s call her Bernice, that you should blog as much for yourself as for others. Who cares if no one reads it, write it for yourself. Write it for your self-in-ten-years. Write it for your kids, you future spouse, some random Zimbabwean who happens to drop by your blog out of pure serendipity. Whoever, whenever, just write.

I think that writing is to our thoughts as exercise is to our body. It helps to expunge our brains of all the nonsense that’s up there and allow some of the more meaningful thoughts to touch the surface. In our wonderful, comfortable, information-saturated existence, we are hardly ever thoughtless. There’s usually something going through our brain – work, play,church,eat,drink,learn,read,etc – so generating thought is not hard. The problem is, is that our thinking is dragged down to the lowest common denominator of our world – basically advertising and consumption. So we need to reclaim the higher ground that we have lost to this denigrating force. And I think one of the ways we do this is by writing (reading also, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish!).

When we write, especially for an audience, we have to distill truth, meaning, humor, sorrow, love or hatred, or any other notion, into words. We beat our disorganized thoughts into shape with the tools of grammar and language. We allow others to follow our thought processes: to think like we did, to see what we saw, and hopefully, to realize what we realised. Poets, novelists, prophets, researchers; all people who use the written word and try to convey something, perhaps it is meaning or a narrative, revelation, truth or discovery. In every instance, the very act of writing is a step of faith. We are saying, ‘let me write this down so that another may be enriched’ (even when that other is simply another version of you). Implicit in that statement is that we want others to benefit from our experience. Perhaps someone can identify with your pain as you coped haphazardly with the death of a loved one…or maybe you can help someone expand their understanding of a problem by your systematic research.

So I think writing is important. I think thinking is far more important than writing, but usually they go hand in hand. Because it’s important, and because our society doesn’t value taking time out, we must discipline ourselves to write. We must also discipline ourselves to think. One such initiative to discipline me to write is the pelting-pact-of-persistence. Yes, I realize the name is completely bizarre – although the author must have a fondness for alliteration by the sounds of things! Anyways, it’s just an agreement with two friends (who also blog, see here and here) that we will blog at least once a week (and they are caning me, although I think I get double points for mentioning the name in the eternal halls of the interweb). So this constitutes my week’s blog. I have  also done some other writing (see here), and while that is probably more important than this (although I think this is also important), I think I prefer writing like this. For one thing you don’t have to pore over every sentence – you can just say it and let the chips fall where they may.

Anyhoo…not too much else to report on…econometrics test coming up on Wednesday. I really hope that the learning disposition falls on me sometime soon, otherwise the panic-disposition is sure to follow. Also teaching, Two Oceans trail run and something else I can’t remember right now…

Cheerio all you good people…

PS – I have no idea why the picture is relevant but it is

**PPS – the title comes from a lovely Economist article, I include the excerpt below: (David Cameron was visiting Tahrir Square in Egypt)

““Are you happy now?” Mr Cameron asked a teenage boy whose face was painted in the colours of the Egyptian flag. The boy proving happy but silent, Mr Cameron settled for a handshake. An older relative stepped in to inform curious reporters that the youth “loves the new freedom”, adding, “Lovely-jubbly, tally-ho, tally-ho.”

Christian consciousness…

“Christian consciousness begins in the painful realization that what we had assumed was the truth is in fact a lie. Prayer is immediate: “Deliver me from the liars, God! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth” (Ps 120). Rescue me from the lies of advertisers who claim to know what I need and what I desire, from the lies of entertainers who promise a cheap way to joy, from the lies of politicians who pretend to instruct me in power and morality, from the lies of psychologists who offer to shape my behavior and my morals so that I will live long, happily and successfully, from the lies of religionists who ‘heal the wounds of this people lightly,’ from the lies of moralists who pretend to promote me to the office of captain of my fate, from the lies of pastors who ‘get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions” (Mt 7:8). Rescue me from the person who tells me of life and omits Christ, who is wise in the ways of the world and ignores the movement of the Spirit.

The lies are impeccably factual. They contain no errors. There are no distortions or falsified data. But they are lies all the same, because they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave himself for us” – Eugene Peterson P28 in ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’

I am currently reading this book by Eugene Peterson who is an author pretty much in a league of his own. He resonates a wisdom and clarity that only comes from decades in the ministry, decades reading (and in his case translating) the Bible and decades praying and communing with God. I respect what he says and always have time to listen to his take on any issue. I’m reading ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’ because I know consistency  is something I lack and it is something I want. On second thought, it’s something I need.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the lies I’m fed and the lies I feed myself. Every day I have the choice to dwell on my own insecurities or to see them for what they are and move on (however hard and seemingly unsuccessful that process may be). I can choose to see the best in people instead of doubting their motives and intentions. I can choose to keep stepping forward even though it feels like I’m going nowhere. In short, we all choose to lead the lives that we do. We can choose to fester in the lies of the world and try to make sense of everything around us amidst that haze. Or we can acknowledge that a weltanschauung that excludes God and His workings in our world and in our lives is necessarily incomplete.

I must say that i think these things are always much easier said than done…the motif of consistency seems to be the shadow of my life at the moment.

Friends, Romans, countrymen

As part of my ongoing effort to reevaluate my life, I am trying to define success and successful living. If you are a Christian, your view of success in this life is very different to someone who does not believe in Jesus. Although, even if you are not a Christian this is true for you – it is a universal truth as far as I’m concerned. Something I’ve realised over the years of contemplating what we, as Christians, should value, is that people are what matter. After a relationship with God, the personal relationships we have with those around us are the number one ‘treasure’ we have on this earth. I rarely live as if I believe this, and yet I know it to be true. I know that success at work, wealth, knowledge, fame, whatever you are looking for, will be empty without people to share it with. And this is only the beginning of wisdom. We shouldn’t seek friends only to have someone with whom we can enjoy our good fortune, rather, we should seek people as an end in and of themselves. We believe that people are made in the image of God. How logical then, that people possess the highest value it is possible to possess.

Prioritize people over possessions.

On the failure of New Year’s resolutions…

‘But change must always be balanced with some degree of consistency’ – Ron Burton

The change from one year to another provides the perfect opportunity for us to believe that we can change. While the designation of years is quite arbitrary, it’s ubiquity adds to the illusion that a new year is a new leaf. We think that somehow this year will be different. Well not entirely different – the good things won’t change, but the bad things will slowly evaporate as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December. Fortunately this is not the case. Apart from our calendars, the only thing that changes from one year to another is personal resolve. We resolve to exercise more, eat healthier, work harder, think differently, risk more, be more. In essence we want to be better people, so we resolve to change. I really love this about us humans – this inner desire to be more than we currently are. The collective action of individuals desiring to grow culminates in the advance of society. Progress is simply the aggregation of individual advancement. But I am getting off topic here 🙂 Where was I? New Year’s resolutions, yes.

What I’ve realised in the last few weeks is that we lose our reputation with ourselves when we over-promise but under-deliver. When we make personal commitments, we are in effect making a promise to ourselves. The only problem with doing this is that your reputation is now on the line. When you make a promise to a friend – ‘I promise I’ll be there at 9AM, count on it!’ – and you don’t keep it, your friend loses his trust in your word. True, it is unlikely to be the result of only one broken promise, but these things add up in time. If you promise to do things, but regularly don’t follow through, people will soon learn that your promises are not really promises at all. The same is true of our relationship with ourselves. We make resolutions to live differently, to use our time differently, to be different people – but if we consistently fail to deliver on these resolutions or promises to ourselves, we stop believing what we tell ourselves. This is a much more grievous situation than it may sound. When you cannot trust yourself, you will find it very difficult to trust other people, or more importantly, God.

So, if it is so important that we are able to trust ourselves and believe the promises we make to ourselves, what is the solution to this problem? I think the key is to be realistic about the promises we make to ourselves. It’s not a very glamorous answer, but I think it is the right one. Don’t over-promise. There is something to be said for the axiom ‘Under-promise and over-deliver’. When I make a commitment to do something and actually fulfill that commitment, I become more trustworthy in my own eyes. I’m more likely to believe the voice in my head in the future because that voice is trustworthy. So now I don’t make promises to myself that I know will be really difficult to keep. I refuse to commit to exercise for an hour a day, read for another, pray for another, and then to fast every second day…it’s just not going to happen. We should not measure success or progress by what we start, but rather by what we finish. So I will make resolutions about many things, but they will be within my grasp. And then I will do my utmost to be consistent in the outworking of those resolutions. Rome wasn’t built in a day people….